ABC11 Investigates

Parents worried about new synthetic drug abuse

Thursday, June 27, 2013

We learned about a potentially dangerous synthetic drug that's new on the scene in North Carolina from a Wake County mom who told us she believes her son was taking it.

"It's terrifying. It's terrifying," said the mom who asked that we not use her name to protect her son.

The drug is 25I-NBOMe - known by many names, including 25i, N-Bomb, and Smiles.

"I'm very concerned. Um, everything that I have read has said that this drug is incredibly psychologically addictive," said the mom.

She told us she learned her son was taking the drug after reading private messages on his Facebook page.

"I found Facebook messages that were sent by my son to some of his friends, and talking about taking this drug during school hours, during class, mentioning different periods during school," she said.

"N-Bomb" sells in pill and powder form online for about $90 a gram. It can cause hallucinations, seizures, and even death.

"This particular drug, I have read, is something that can kill you in one dose," said the mother. "So it's very, very frightening."

Last year, 25 year-old Stephanie Hobson of New Hanover County died from an overdose. Police say her boyfriend, Jeremy Leutgens, gave her the drug. He pleaded not guilty to the charge of involuntary manslaughter.

The drug is also connected to overdose deaths in Florida, Louisiana, Texas and North Dakota in the past year.

Earlier this year, Susan Wadsworth's son died after taking the drug. In a YouTube video posted online, she warns other parents.

"You don't ever think this could happen to your child," she said. "I would never have foreseen this in a million years. I want parents to know about this so they can warn their kids."

The SBI drug lab recently started getting cases of N-Bomb in North Carolina.

"N-bomb is a class of compounds," said SBI Agent Ann Hamlin. "And what they do is they exhibit stimulant and hallucinogenic effects."

Making the drug is easy for dealers because the synthetic ingredients can by bought online.

Hamlin told us the drug is especially worrisome because there have not been many studies on the effects in humans.

"The places where they are manufactured don't have any quality control," she said. "These kids are taking things that have not been tested and approved by anybody."

And when dealers come up with a new substance like N-Bomb, they know where to market it quickly to teens. They use websites that sell illegal and prescription drugs without asking the age of the buyer.

"What frightens me the most is a website that is out there called "Silk Road," said Hamlin.

Tom Ray conducts drug awareness programs in schools for parents through the Poe Center for Health Education in Raleigh. He told us Silk Road is not like standard websites.

"You can't access it through Explorer or Google Chrome, or any other basic web browser. You have to download the Tour Browser to access it.

Ray explained the drug scene changes so quickly it's hard to keep up with all the ways kids can get drugs. He hadn't heard of Silk Road until we told him, but he showed us how easy it is for teens to sign onto the website.

"You use the Tour Browser to browse the web anonymously, you can make purchases online anonymously, and it's free, it's easy to download," he said

Hamlin said once kids are on the site, getting drugs is easy.

"These kids are able with the username, appropriate username, password, code, get into this website and you can buy anything, on this website," she explained. "And they're shipping it through the U.S. mail. They're establishing post office boxes and having these drugs shipped."

The I-Team also discovered parents can't trace a drug purchase. Payment is made through something called a Bitcoin. It's digital currency - considered electronic money - that's tough to track.

"So your credit card wouldn't be associated with Silk Road for example, it would be associated with one of the exchanges where you can purchase Bitcoins, which that's, you know, completely legal," said Ray.

Our Wake County mom said she came to us to help raise awareness.

"I don't want my kid to die. I don't want anybody else's kid to die either," she said.

North Carolina's General Assembly has passed a new drug law which will further crack down on N-Bomb and other synthetic drugs like it. The law is scheduled to go into effect July 1.

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